Today, I wanted to share with you 10 of my favourite opening lines from books! Some I’ve read, and some I’ve not, but all of them are super gripping and have bumped the book up my TBR! I’ve got a mix of classics and modern books here, and I’ll also include a brief description so hopefully if any of these intrigue you like they did me you can figure out if you want to read on!
- “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”
Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen.
A classic tale of society and class in 18th Century Britain, Austen grabs her audience from the first line. If it’s a universal truth, why do we need to be told? What man has this narrator found who appears not to be in want of a wife?
- “Marley was dead: to begin with.”
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens.
A ghost story like no other! Grumpy old Ebeneezer Scrooge is forced to confront his past, present, and future after being visited by a series of ghosts, the first being no other than his old friend Marley. I love the suspense in this one!
- “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.”
Rebecca – Daphne du Maurier.
I know I haven’t shut up about this book recently, but I love it! It’s a gothic tale of a new marriage haunted by the spectre of the first Mrs DeWinter, Rebecca. This is such an iconic opening line, and I love it!
- “You better not tell nobody but God.”
The Color Purple – Alice Walker.
Anyone who’s read The Color Purple will know the devastating context behind this line. The Color Purple is the tale of Celie, a young Black girl living in the southern United States, and the abuse she suffers at the hands of her family. As well as being a tale of abuse, there is also hope, and love, and family.
- “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.”
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath.
So this is one that’s on my TBR, but I haven’t read yet. I love this opening line for the sense of atmosphere it creates, and how little it tells us. It’s semi-autobiographical, so it deals with a lot of themes surrounding mental health.
- “The first time our father brought Andrea to the Dutch House, Sandy, our housekeeper, came to my sister’s room and told us to come downstairs.”
The Dutch House – Ann Patchett.
Another one that leaves me with questions. I want to know who Andrea is, and what the Dutch House is. Tell me more! This is a story of family torn apart, coming-of-age, and the significance of places to our youth.
- “Before the flight I was invited for lunch at a London club with a billionaire I’d been promised had liberal credentials.”
Outline – Rachel Cusk.
Where is the flight going to? Who is our narrator? And I love that it immediately introduces a political slant. Outline is a book told in ten conversations our narrator, a writer from England, has with a variety of people she meets while teaching a creative writing course in Athens.
- “You would have searched a long time for the sort of winding lane or tranquil meadow for which England later became celebrated.”
The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro.
This immediately puts me in the world of the book. The Buried Giant takes us into a world of Arthurian legend, and presents us with unlikely protagonists: an elderly couple on a search for their missing son. It’s fantastical, mythical, and there might be some familiar names making an appearance.
- “When you are all sinew, struggle and solitude, your young — being soft, plump, vulnerable — may remind you of prey.”
Ducks, Newburyport – Lucy Ellmann.
This is so visceral, and gory, and animalistic, and I just want more. Fortunately, Ducks, Newburyport has 900 pages more to deliver. Here, we meet a middle-aged mother coming to terms with modern life, and life after cancer.
- “In the morning, the one who is mostly enlightened comes in.”
Weather – Jenny Offill.
I just love this. It’s captivating and engaging, and draws you right in. Weather is extremely relevant, dealing with climate anxiety and more. It’s also told in fragments, mimicking the way lives are told in short, social media bursts.